Channel ferry firm cuts fares

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The Independent Online
STENA SEALINK has fired the first shots in the Channel price war by launching a 20 per cent cut on selected summer ferry crossings.

With Eurotunnel unlikely to transport holidaymakers before the autumn, the cut is almost certainly directed at P&O, which competes with Stena on the Dover to Calais route.

Eurotunnel has dismissed the cut, which also affects Newhaven-Dieppe and Southampton-Cherbourg crossings, as 'a matter between the ferry companies', but it is likely to effect Eurotunnel charges in the long term.

Last night, Dr Stefan Szymanski, economics lecturer at Imperial College, said that two ferry companies undercutting each other seemed 'bizarre economics'. He argues that a price war between the ferry companies is senseless because the tunnel will eventually put both out of business. 'The profits on the Dover-Calais route have been wonderful in the past few years,' he said. 'The companies had the chance to make a good profit for another year and they seem to have blown it. But it is wonderful for consumers.'

Last night, a P&O spokesman said it had no plans to cut its prices in response to Stena's cut, which it claims will knock pounds 64 off a standard return fare for a car and five passengers. Claims by Stena that the cut was a response to an earlier 10 per cent cut by P&O were 'completely spurious', he said.

A Stena spokesman said the move was a commercial initiative, not the first signs of a price war.